I have two passages in mind this morning. The first is Matthew 28:18–20 and the second is Matthew 16:16–18. The first is a commission, the second promise. Let’s take them in the order in the book of Matthew.
“Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:16–18 ESV)
I want to concentrate on the last part of that verse: “the gates of hell shall not prevail.” We need not get into all the issues of the verse. I want you to see that there are “gates.” And “gates” are used more for defense than offense. Really the world is not so much on the offense, but is retreating from Christ by their rebellion against him and the church. Christ’s promise is that these “gates” will not prevail. In other literature, the phrase “the gates of hell” can speak of death. However, in the Bible we read early that this was included in God’s promise about kingdoms opposed to the everlasting one. In Genesis, Moses writes,
“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,” (Genesis 22:17 ESV)
That last phrase “And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies” is the matter I am looking at here. It is a promise. The gate of the enemy was the place one did business before the leaders of that city. For example, just a bit later it can be read:
“Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city,” (Genesis 23:10 ESV).
Now, quickly moving from here, keep in mind the promise of blessing of the descendants and their success against the city gates of the world.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20 ESV)
The commission, I believe, relates directly to the promise. God is going to make the spiritual descendants of Abraham, the father of the faith per se, extremely numerous through means of discipling. Discipling the nations involves baptizing and teaching God’s law. The words “make disciples” are really one word in the Greek New Testament that is a verb for discipling or teaching. We teach God’s people from every nation who have been chosen before the foundation of the world, regenerated by the Spirit, and justified by faith alone in Christ alone, by baptizing them into the church, and teaching them obedience to God’s law. This commission given to the church will not fail. The church is on the offense, the world is on the defense. And God’s promise stands, and his commission will be successful. Thus, teach the nations with hope and confidence in God.